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Costs for detention up, ICE head says

21 March 2010 No Comment

John Morton made his case to the Appropriations Committee last week requesting $2.6 billion for FY2011, an additional $20 million above last year for the Detention and Removal Operations.

ICE is proposing an overall FY 2011 budget of $5.8 billion, an increase of 2 percent over the FY 2010 budget.

Questioned why not not all 33,400 beds were being utilized, Morton said they could not afford the 33,400 beds, because the funding budgeted for the 33,400 were based on $99 a day vs. the $122 a day that ICE now has to pay. Only 29,192 beds are currently being used. Despite the increase in costs, Morton assured committee leaders that ICE was not diverting funds away from bed space and would be using all beds in the future.

The criticism in bed space comes after some reports suggest that ICE my be releasing suspected illegal immigrants from their custody due to a lack of space and funding. Earlier this year, the Houston Chronicle obtained information a Freedom of Information Act request suggesting just that. While ICE has rejected this notion, ICE’s Union has reported significant bed space and funding shortages.

“I really believe that it’s a nationwide problem,” Chris Crane, ICE Council 118’s vice president for Detention and Removal Operations told the Houston Chronicle. “I’m hesitant for the sake of employees to say where some of these locations are, but I have talked to some agents who said their districts have run out of funds for bed space and are ordering their officers to release as many prisoners as possible.”

Morton at the hearing also called the Secure Communities the wave of the future. Secure Communities
is a program that allows state and local police to check the fingerprints of an individual they book against ICE and FBI databases and is expected to be rolled out nationwide by 2013.

According to Morton, as of December 2009, over 1.34 million finger prints submissions has resulted in
arrests of 146,000 criminal aliens, of which 23,000 have been removed. Late last year, the agency boasted that it had identified more than 11,000 aliens charged or convicted with level 1 crimes through Secure Communities, while 100,000 aliens were charged with or convicted of level 2 and level 3 crimes.
Meanwhile, the number of criminal aliens identified by the 287(g) program – which trains local police to enforce immigration laws – increased by 46 percent in 2009 compared to 2008.

Morton expects that 80 percent of the detention space will be used for the criminal alien population, which may distort cost proposals to create a more civil detention system, if more detention facilities will be used to house the criminal population.

However, questioned whether ICE was also maintaining arrests of non-criminals, Morton said that the removal of non-criminal aliens was at its highest in ICE history.

Download Morton’s written testimony to read more.

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